Americans pride themselves on independence, an idea at the very heart of our civilization. Independence means "we got it," we can take care of ourselves, no need for the government to do for us what is our right and our pleasure to do for ourselves. We lionize the hard workers, the self-made, the capable, the man on the mend. This American zeitgeist has attracted the ambitious and the talented for generations.
Interpersonally, Americans are highly social creatures, eager to work together to create businesses, organizations, and communities. This is a powerful element of American society. But what are the downsides to uber-cooperation? May we also be blind to, despite our lip service to the autonomous, some unappreciated, negative elements of our group-mindedness?
I think we are. As 2020 showed, many in our country have a hard time being alone, spending time with the only thing that's always with us: our minds. Any extended solitude introduces an individual to a crucial, fundamental fact of life: our minds are all we have. And it is the quality of our minds - our moment-to-moment experience - that determine a good or a bad day, a flourishing or a suffering life.
To me, a fully developed person is one who possesses both social skills and comfort by themselves. Such an individual is far more self-aware and far less self-destructive. They're less anxious about the outcome of any individual social relationship because they know they can handle any result. Their default is stable, self-reliant, relishing the space of alone time. They can work with others, while also being apt to set boundaries, tell the truth, and resist conformity and toxic dynamics.
America, right now, encourages the super social-ness of our nature. But we would be far better served by also encouraging our young, for a part of their development into adults, to live alone, to engage in silent meditation, and to travel solo. The skills developed by such a lifestyle would pay dividends for their employees, their lovers, and their society. An independence from neediness and excessive approval - and a growth towards enjoyment of solitude and a development of one's inner conscience - would serve us all well.